No matter how far away you end up, GOD, your God, will get you out of there and bring you back…GOD, your God will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children’s hearts, freeing you to love GOD, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live; really live. And you will make a new start, listening obediently to GOD, keeping all his commandments…GOD, your God will outdo himself in making things go well for you…Yes, GOD will start enjoying you again…The word is right here and now – as near the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it! And I command you today: Love GOD, your God. Walk in his ways. Keep his commandments, regulations, and rules so that you will live, really live, live exuberantly, blessed by GOD, your God...
(Deut. 30: 6, 8-9, 14, 16)
Staying close to God is not always an easy thing to accomplish – especially in the influence of the world’s pull and our selfish disposition to pursue things that appeal to our sin nature. Coming back to God is probably even harder once we have given into the pressures of the world or pursued the selfish desires of our heart. The tendency of our heart is to hide in that place, hoping to not be discovered or exposed. God is a merciful God – he will seek us out right where we are at – even when we may not realize we have drifted or that we need to be found. He gently moves upon our spirit until we recognize that the drifting of our heart, the focus of our attention, has been away from him at the center part of our existence. He intervenes to get us back into right relationship – he interrupts us in our wandering long enough to present himself, his grace, and his tender care. In that interruption, he offers his hand of rescue. In that intrusion into our complacency, he interjects his grace and refreshing renewal.
God had prepared Israel to receive a tremendous blessing of land, properties, possessions, and dominion. He had laid out fully the conditions of his blessing – their continued obedience was all that was required of them. As simply as he presented the promises of his blessing, he addresses the one who he knows will walk away from that position of blessing and provision – the one who does not stay engaged in the plan God has ordained for their safety and well-being. He offers a way of escape when the plans we pursue unravel on us and leave us desolate in spirit, emotion, or relationship.
Here is the heart of God toward his children – tender, compassionate, reaching, seeking, hoping in the potential of obedience he sees in each of our hearts. It is as though he knows the tendency of our hearts to drift into complacency, to succumb to the tantalizing appeal of things that sway our dedication to his purposes, and to gradually withdraw into a place of self-centered disobedience. He understands our heart and that drifting may occur (and likely will occur in some measure) – just as a ship is impacted by the currents of the water, gently being tugged in a certain direction against its original course.
He also knows that the forces that come against our undivided attention to his plans are not necessarily overt, driving forces, but small, sometimes almost imperceptible, steady influences. These move upon us in such unnoticed ways, yet they manage to shift our attitude or position – setting us on a course that often is without aim. We can liken this "movement away from God" as a sort of "drifting" that occurs - not really intentional, but coming over a course of time when we just don't take full notice of the influences around us and their impact on us.
It is important for us to see that drifting is not a purposeful, well-planned movement – it is a haphazard movement created by that which influences us the most at that specific moment. Jesus was speaking with his disciples one day about the dedication that is required of one who wishes to stay rightly ordered in his course of direction. He shared, “If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.” (Matt. 10:38-39)
We need to take heed to this warning about where we place our attention or direct our concern – if it is continually on our self, we will never find the satisfaction, peace, or joy that we earnestly seek after. If we are able to move from focusing on our “wants” or “wishes” long enough, re-centering our thoughts on Christ, we will find deep, inner fulfillment. The focus of our attention determines the course of our actions. We go where we are “headed” – just as the ship points its bow into the course it hopes to complete. Tomorrow, we will consider the influence of the heart and the mind on the direction of our "internal rudder". See you then!